Strengthening the Rule of Law in the Pacific through International Crime Cooperation

Article excerpt

Abstract

The rule of law as demonstrated through law enforcement, good political governance and an effective legal system has been identified as necessary for security, social stability, sustainable development and economic growth. Instability, corruption and lawlessness, which have at times plagued Pacific Island communities, are a clear indication of a weak rule of law. Organised criminal groups tend to target weak and vulnerable countries struggling with poor governance structures and social and/or political unrest, as is the case in many Pacific Island Countries. The aim of this article is to give a brief overview of the prevalence of transnational crime in the Pacific and its interrelationship with the rule of law. The article will then examine the range of international crime cooperation initiatives implemented in the Pacific to deal with transnational crime and the positive effect these initiatives have had on strengthening the rule of law.

Introduction

Whilst the Pacific Islands are culturally, educationally and socially diverse, there is a degree of similarity in their respective levels of governance, corruption and law enforcement capacity. The instability, corruption and lawlessness that have at times plagued Pacific Island Countries are a clear indication of a weak rule of law. In recent years there have been endless projects and initiatives developed to address this goal. Given the significance of the rule of law and the myriad of initiatives to strengthen it in weakened countries, agreement about its meaning and effect is remarkably elusive. The rule of law is rarely, if ever, a discrete legal principle in its own right; rather, it is an approach to governance on which the efficacy of law and constitutionalism rests. At the most basic level it can be said that there are three core principles to the rule of law. First, the population must be governed by general rules that are laid down in advance. Second, these rules must be applied and enforced; and third, disputes about the rules must be resolved effectively and fairly. (1) Efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the Pacific could be more successful if they focused on the specific difficulties experienced by Pacific Island Countries rather than the overarching, somewhat abstract goal of strengthening the rule of law. This article will consider the prevalence of transnational crime in the Pacific and how measures to combat this threat through international crime cooperation can strengthen the rule of law in the Pacific. The article will begin by considering exactly what is meant by the 'rule of law', the term 'transnational crime' and the relationship between the two. The article will then provide an overview of the Pacific region and the Pacific Islands Forum, and some explanation as to why Australia is concerned about the current situation in the Pacific. It will consider the prevalence of transnational crime in the Pacific and outline the benefits of using international crime cooperation to combat transnational crime. It will then describe regional efforts to combat this threat, explain why such efforts may not be effective and provide in the Pacific, which has had some success. Finally the article will outline the positive effect that international crime cooperation can have on strengthening the rule of law in the Pacific.

1. What is the Rule of Law?

The rule of law, as demonstrated through law enforcement, good political governance and an effective legal system, has been identified as necessary for security, social stability, sustainable development and economic growth. Both the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development identify the rule of law as one of the major components of the good governance promoted by them as essential for development. (2) An effective rule of law then underpins and enables security, social stability, sustainable development and economic growth.

In 1995 the Asian Development Bank ('ADB') adopted a policy on good governance and identified its four basic elements: accountability, participation, predictability and transparency. …